The Department of Psychology’s latest initiative will challenge prevailing views of human intelligence.

Psychology professor Robert Sternberg presided yesterday over the inauguration of the Yale University Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies and Expertise. The institute, known informally as the Pace Center, was founded to combat entrenched perceptions of intelligence, such as the notion that people are born with a level of intelligence they maintain throughout their lives.

The center, located at 340 Edwards St. behind Science Hill, will bring together approximately two dozen researchers, many of them hailing from abroad. It has attracted nearly $7 million in research grants from various institutions, including the United States Army Research Institute and the National Science Foundation.

Sternberg’s mentor and graduate school adviser, Stanford University professor Gordon Bower, was on hand to cut the ribbon in honor of his one-time pupil, who will serve as the center’s first director. The opening of the Pace Center is a watershed moment for Sternberg, Bower said. The center, he added, will serve as a “rallying point” where Yale students and researchers can interact.

The ceremony followed a colloquium put on by Endel Tulving, professor at the Rotman Institute of Baycrest Center in Toronto, on the subject of intelligence and its constituent parts.

Sternberg pioneered the theory of successful intelligence, which holds that far from being set from birth, intelligence can vary over the span of an individual’s life. Intelligence is not merely an analytical quality, but is composed of analytical, creative and practical identities. Similar ideas have gained credence in recent years, as the term “emotional intelligence” has entered the public lexicon.

One project in the works at the center is a three-year study of adolescent intelligence to examine a “balance theory of wisdom.”

The theory differentiates wisdom, an individual’s predilection to use his talents for the common good, with the abilities of the more ruthlessly ambitious. The subjects will be tested later to ascertain whether the intervention succeeded in altering the ways in which they approach life problems.

“Bob is an incredibly diverse and wonderful man,” said James Kaufman, who earned his doctorate in psychology from Yale yesterday. “[The center] is a chance to gather together a large group of people to really make a difference.